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Letter 7130

Müller, H. L. H. to Darwin, C. R.

8 Mar 1870


HM intends studying bees to find evidence supporting CD’s theories. His work has shown him there are problems in separating species from varieties, and has also revealed many surprising instances of variation in habits.



8/3 70.

My dear Sir!

I am very much obliged to you for your assistance in obtainingMr Fr. Smith’s willingness to revise my Westfalian bees.f1 My wisheson this head are perfectly accomplished by your kind mediation, and nowI can begin more confidently to elaborate the matter that occupiesme since two years.

From a paper, I lately have sent to you, you will have seen, thatI intended at first to try an employment of your doctrine on flowersand insects visiting flowers in general.f2 But this whole matter beingextremely extensive, I have resolved now to elaborate previouslyonly a single section of it, namely the employment of your doctrineon the bees, being adapted in their parts of mouth and in theirpollen-collecting apparatus to their nourishment gained fromflowers.—f3

So turning my attention chiefly to the bees of my neighbourhood,I have found, that this family of insects also in many other regardsis highly abundant of facts decisive for your theorie. It is, forinstant, very rich of doubtful forms ranked by one Zoologist as aspecies and by another as a variety, it is very rich of species whichdiffer but very slightly from each other, and the differences, inthe one case judged as sufficient for the distinction of species, inthe other case looked at as mere varieties, blend into each other inan insensible series.— In the family of bees further there arefound many surprising instances of variation of instincts—

I have encountered also many pecularities in the one sex, that can onlybe acquired by inheritance from the other sex etc. These and otherobservations, occasionally made, have determinated myself, to exceed,considering the family of bees, the exact limits of my originalthema and to treat in its various regards the employment ofyour theorie—on bees

Till the end of this year I hope to have finished the first memoiron this subject.f4

Nevertheless I will have, also during next summer, an eye on allfacts relating to the whole thema, and I would be very much obliged to you,if you would communicate to me all your scruples and objectionsagainst my statements in the paper lately sent to you.

As you have corrected repeatedly, in former cases, my opinions, I hope,you will also in this case do so.

With the greatest respect | I remain, | my dear Sir, | yours veryfaithfully | H Müller.

DAR 171: 296



Müller had asked CD to forward to Frederick Smith a letter askingSmith to identify some of Müller’s Westphalian bees (seeCorrespondence vol. 17, letter from Hermann Müller, 12 November 1869). No letter from CD to Müller on the subject has beenfound.
There is an annotated copy of Müller’s paper, ‘Die Anwendung derDarwin’schen Lehre auf Blumen und blumen-besuchende Insekten’(The application of Darwinian theory to flowers and flower-visitinginsects; H. Müller 1869), in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Müller had also studied the adaptation of Syrphidae (hoverfly)mouthparts to various sizes of pollen (see Correspondence vol. 15,letter from Hermann Müller, 23 October 1867).
Müller’s paper, ‘Anwendung der Darwin’schen Lehre auf Bienen’(Application of Darwinian theory to bees), waspublished in 1872 (H. Müller 1872).
Federico Delpino translated and annotated H. Müller 1869 (Delpino1870a). See letter from Federico Delpino, [1870].
Possibly a reference to the Swedish botanist Johan Severin Axell.
On the pollination of Angraecum sesquipedale, seeCorrespondence vol. 15, letter from A. R. Wallace, 1 October [1867]and n. 5.
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